Let’s Make Presidential Debates More Ideological!

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Republicans seem to be inching in the direction of no longer allowing any primary debates to be hosted by non-conservatives or televised on non-conservative channels. The debates would all be on Fox (I guess) and the questioners would all be conservatives who truly understand what it is that conservatives are interested in. Ed Kilgore ponders what this means:

The key point here is the ability of these kind of “moderators” (to use the unavoidable but unintentionally hilarious term) to “vet” candidates by forcing them to “differentiate their positions on core conservative values.” That could mean slicing and dicing the field according to position differences less ideological questioners don’t even understand (e.g., degrees of commitment to the more radical tenets of “constitutional conservatism” that imply abolition of church-state separation or a roll-back of all federal programs not explicitly authorized in the Constitution), or simply an emphasis on “issues” of particular importance to “the base” and pretty much no one else (e.g., Fast and Furious, “voter fraud,” “death panels,” Shariah Law, home-schooling, the gold standard and even “birtherism.”).

Personally, I think this would be great. I can think of three reasons off the top of my head:

Substantive: Why shouldn’t conservatives be questioned by other conservatives who know just what it is that conservatives really care about? That actually sounds pretty reasonable to me. The Huckabee Forum in 2011, starring Pam Bondi, Ken Cuccinelli, and Scott Pruitt, was surprisingly interesting.

Entertainment value: As a blogger, I would really look forward to making the GOP clown show even more clownish. I know that hardly seems possible, but think about it. “Governor Jindal, do you think Christian churches should merely be free of all government interference, or do you think that state governments should require the adoption of Christian curricula in our schools?” “Representative Ryan, do you think global warming is a myth, or do you think it’s actually a sinister plot by the scientific community to destroy the economy?” Bring it on!

End of idiocy: I totally sympathize with the conservative desire to put an end to “Elvis or the Beatles?” kinds of questions. It would be worth it just to accomplish this.

I’m not sure how this translates on the Democratic side, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few of the debates moderated by honest-to-goodness lefties rather than John King and Wolf Blitzer. Why not make the candidates defend themselves against criticism from the left? It’d be good for them to go up against Rick Perlstein and Katha Pollitt once or twice. Why not?

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If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

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